Alan Carpenter, Host  0:07
Good morning. Welcome back to Jet Radio 1400. I’m your host, Alan Carpenter, great to have in the studio with me, the Executive Director of Community Resources for independence. Carl Berry, Carl, good morning.

Carl Berry, CRI Executive Director  0:19  
Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Host  0:20  
So good to have you here. We were talking off air. And you know, CRI is an interesting organization and institution because it’s one of those places in town that we all know the name, we drive past it, but we don’t know exactly what happens there. So I think after today’s show, we’ll should be able to enlighten folks about everything you folks do, because you do a lot. 

Carl Berry  0:42  
We do. Thank you. 

Host  0:42  
There’s a lot going on there. So let’s start with the brass tacks. What exactly is CRI?

Carl Berry  0:48  
Well, Community Resources for Independence is a 501-C3 nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities, whether that’s physical disabilities, the aging process, wounded warriors, Veterans Administration, or intellectually disabled individuals, we support those folks so that they have an opportunity, the option, they could be institutionalized living in a nursing home or other institutional setting, but with a helping hand, they would be able to live in their own homes in their own communities. A lot of people prefer that it’s a higher quality of life for many folks. Furthermore, it tends to be cheaper for the state to for taxpayer purposes. And well, quite honestly, that’s where I’d want to be home and in the community.

Host  1:36  
Yeah, that’s the independence in the name. I’m not sure what’s happening out there. But that’s okay. We’ve got to, we’ve got an excited crowd outside. That’s what happens when we do shows like this. Well, that’s the independence in the name. And you know, it just makes, you know, first of all, it allows a person to have a little bit of that dignity, a little bit of that, you know, there are people who need to be in the other kind of facilities, but there are people who also in that gray area… 

Carl Berry  2:01  

Host  2:01  
But it is very hard for those folks without an organization like CRI to actually live independently, you know, you need that helping hand. So tell me about some of the services you offer.

Carl Berry  2:13  
Sure, we provide supports and services, a wide variety of disability centric services to enable folks to live independently, everything from information and referral to peer support to independent living skills, training, and many more, but in terms of the largest number of people being served, and the largest number of employees at Community Resources for Independence, the main service is what we call assistance services, where we provide a personal care attendant, we call them Direct Care Professionals, or Direct Support Professionals, where we provide a direct care professional to an individual to help them with things like well, getting out of bed in the morning, wearing clean clothes, having a warm meal, or perhaps even something as simple as having dignity. That’s what we do. We enable simple human dignity by enabling folks to do the things that you and I do. We have a phrase at CRI: “Where ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help extraordinary people just do ordinary things”.

“Where ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help extraordinary people just do ordinary things”.

Host  3:28  
Wow. That’s, that’s that’s profound, isn’t it? 

Carl Berry  3:30  
Let’s break that apart. Ordinary people. Me, you are direct support professionals. We’re ordinary folks. But we got heart, that it takes a real special person to be able to do this job well for the right reasons. But it takes extraordinary effort to coordinate in home care throughout literally thousands of homes. So we work very hard at our scheduling, our supervision, our training, our communication, our coordination, our support for our Direct Support Professionals. So that brings us to the third part, extraordinary individuals, we help extraordinary people. Let’s be honest, in order to be eligible for CRI services, you need to have some form of a disability so profound, that you’re borderline nursing home eligible, or institutionally eligible for placement. That’s pretty extraordinary. But we help them do those ordinary things, live at home, participate in their community, be involved with others, and not be placed away somewhere. Convenient, warehoused. So, that’s why we do, we enable simple human dignity.

Host  4:49  
And when you talk about thousands of homes. That leads me to my next question, which is kind of the range of location of services I mean, how far spread are the services or CRI.

Carl Berry  5:00  
Well, pretty, pretty well spread throughout western and central Pennsylvania, we have 13 offices, and easiest way to describe our geographic footprint is go down the western border of Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh, wrap around Pittsburgh, and continue the southern border of Pennsylvania heading east until you get over towards Harrisburg. Okay, and then head north all the way up to New York and back.

Host  5:26  
That’s pretty big area of service.  

Carl Berry  5:28  
It is.  

Host  5:29  
Yeah, that’s, that’s pretty amazing. Well, since we haven’t talked before, and you know, since it’s 2023, I have to ask over the past few years, how did COVID affect what you did? You know, when you’re providing, especially Person-to-Person Care, you know, COVID, it just turn the entire world upside down. For folks who did things like that? You know, it’s one thing for me to come into a radio studio and talk to people on a microphone, it’s another thing, when you’re dealing with people face to face on a daily basis. 

Carl Berry  5:58  
Absolutely, we did not have the opportunity to have, for example, our Direct Care Professionals work from home, they don’t do that, they go to client’s homes. So I’m very, very happy to say that we laid off nobody, we reduced nobody’s hours, we did allow some of our office staff to work from home. But the vast majority of our employees worked from the office. In fact, those who worked from home, almost all of them said, this is for the birds, I’m going back to our offices to support our Direct Care Professionals and Direct Support Professionals in the field. We had to be there as base of operations as a base of support for our Direct Care Workers, and our Direct Support Professionals, because they were out every single day working with clients. Disabilities did not go away during a pandemic, right?

Host  6:52  
Yeah, and it’s just one of those situations where, you know, you think about how we thought, just as you know, folks walk in the street, we thought, Oh, I’ve got to wear a mask, when I go in the grocery store, what an inconvenience how difficult, or Oh, really, compared to what you know, folks from CRI see everyday.

Carl Berry  7:11  
Every day. I’m very, very proud of our folks for not giving up not giving in. And frankly, we have a value at CRI, that value is being there. You could be the best caregiving company in the world. But if you’re not there, you stink on ice. Yeah. Be there on time, every time predictably and reliably.

Host  7:33  
Let me ask you about that too. Because, you know, for folks to be working for, you know, CRI. It does take a special kind of person, it does take a special kind of commitment. It takes a certain kind of heart. A person has to have. So the challenges of keeping people in your in your organization to do what they do. You know, we couldn’t keep people in any kind of job around town. What sort of challenges does that present to you? Because it’s only a certain kind of person who can do what you require them to do?

Carl Berry  8:05  
Absolutely. First, the pandemic made it very, very clear that you cannot serve people with disabilities in their own home without a reliable workforce. That means that Direct Care Professionals and Direct Support Professionals are as important as the clients they are not disposable individuals. Some people think home health aide might be the bottom of the healthcare ladder. Absolutely not. They’re the ones who are working day in and day out with clients, consumers, patients, whatever you want to call them. So my job, our job, at CRI is to properly support those individuals so that they can do what they love. Help a client, help a person shower love and affection on a stranger until they are no longer a stranger.

So what we’ve done throughout the pandemic, we did not sit back we did not stick our head in the sands we got down to business and we have improved so many parts of our organization to be much more direct support professional, direct care worker centric, such as we’ve upped our training programs, we’ve put into place an online learning management system, we put into place a what I call a career ladder both the vertical career ladder meaning you can be qualifications to go up but for to direct care worker to direct care worker three, you could also branch off into becoming a supervisor, a trainer, a scheduler if you want. But we also put into place what I call a horizontal career ladder, sometimes called our specialty badge training program, wherein somebody who’s interested in dementia learning more about caring for a person with dementia, or diabetes, or hospital readmittance risk or many other areas, they can fall entirely, learn some additional areas, some further depth in the services. And they when they work with the client with those particular needs, whether it be dementia or Alzheimer’s, or I’m showing miles or honors now, but diabetes, for example, we pay them a little bit extra.

What’s really, really interesting is how many of our staff flocked to this idea, they are so excited and almost anxious to do a better job for their clients. And they grasp on to the tools and the knowledge and, and the supports that we can give them so they can in turn do a better job for their clients. My job is to support that. My job is to train my schedulers to schedule our attendance better, to train our supervisors to supervise and support and coordinate our staff better to train our trainers, so that they can be out in the field training and supporting our direct care workers better. Because ultimately, a better direct care worker results in a better consumer experience. 

Host  11:15  
Sure. Before we talk about CRI is a place to work. And it is, you know, very meaningful work. And you’ve got great people, obviously, to be able to do what you do. Let me just ask real quickly about CRI as a resource that people are listening and saying, oh, you know, I’ve got somebody in my life. And I don’t know where they fall on that spectrum of being able to be independent, maybe there’s more potential for them to live independently than I know. But I need to talk to people who know you guys know.

Carl Berry  11:43  
We have experts on staff. One of the nicest things about Community Resources for Independence is we’re what’s called a Center for Independent Living. And that’s a resource nexus, if you will, for all things disability in the community. We have staff on our team that are specifically trained and knowledgeable in information and referral, for example, you could make a phone call to Community Resources for Independence, saying I’m new with the disability or my disability is worsening, I’m experiencing these situations, who could I talk to? We have teams of people who work with you, to help you transition out of a nursing home, for example, or to help you learn to live independently with new skills. We’re happy to help.

Host  12:32  
Yeah, and to make that determination because sometimes that’s the hard part. If it’s you, or a loved one who, you know, is dealing with a disability to make that determination of, you know, Wow, do we have to move to a nursing home or that kind of institution? Or is there… and I would imagine that people are surprised how many times they can live independently with services like CRI provides

Carl Berry  13:01  
Absolutely. What is disheartening, however, is how many people say I had no idea these services were available. I wish I had known. I wish I had known so I could keep mom home. I wish I had known so my son could get better services and supports and live a important life.

Host  13:19  
Yeah. And that’s why I wanted to bring that up. Because, you know, I can imagine in the audience, there are people who have loved ones or themselves are in these situations. And you can go to by the way, before we continue our conversation on And they are 3410 West 12th Street here in areas they said I drive past all the time. So it’s nice to know what’s happening in there. And it is important work going on in there. So let’s talk about CRI as a place to work. What kinds of people would you like to see apply and how do they apply? And what backgrounds do they come from?

Carl Berry  13:50  
Well, we are and we are currently hiring Direct Care Professionals who Direct Support Professionals, the split out there as direct care professionals work with people with physical disabilities and aging services. It’s a whole another set of skills and abilities to work with people with intellectual disabilities. We are all those direct support professionals. So the kind of person we’re looking for is somebody who is well, obviously caring, compassionate, willing to… well, I had said it earlier, shower, love and affection on an individual that they hardly know. But they’re going to get to know very, very well. Someone who values that interaction but long term relationship with a person who, well frankly, I don’t have any other way to put it but this way, some of our clients absolutely adore their direct care professionals. Some of them need to warm up a little bit simply because they’re going through some very difficult times in life. Sure. So if you’re that kind of person who could understand and empathize and still work with a client, a consumer, a patient, that’s the kind of person we’re looking for. If you’re the kind of person who thinks this is just going to be an easy job, you’re going to sit and play Parcheesi with the little old lady. This is not the job for you, no. But if you want purpose in your life, if you want meaning in your work, if you want to find something important to do with your time, and to help another human being, my job is to support that and enable you to be able to find that fulfillment.

“If you want purpose in your life, if you want meaning in your work, if you want to find something important to do with your time, and to help another human being, my job is to support that and enable you to be able to find that fulfillment.”

Host  15:31  
Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say, Carl, I’m sure people never go home at the end of the day and say: What am I doing with my life? They go home and they go, I did something. Today, I did something important today. I’lI mean, that’s priceless.

Carl Berry  15:44  
I worked in a bank. I worked in manufacturing, I worked in a nursing home. Never have I ever looked forward to go into work until I started working with Community Resources for Independence, 20 years ago. And I’ve never looked back. I actually get in my car and think: What am I going to be able to do today? So it’s fantastic. I get to go around Pennsylvania and talk to my Direct Support Professionals face-to-face on focus groups. I was just in Sharon last week, and I get to hear all the people my job is to support about how they love and I do mean love their jobs, and love their clients and love their teammates. I can’t think of anything more important for me to do.

Host  16:29  
Yeah, and I love it too. Because it’s not just a case of we’ll you know, everybody wants to help people. But it’s not just a case of helping people, it is allowing people to have their dignity and have that fuller, richer life for as long as they can, what could be a more important way to spend your time?

Carl Berry  16:48
Certainly, now it is a job. Quite frankly, there’s work to it. And we do pay people to do it. But frankly, it’s a calling. 

Host  16:59  
And that’s a good way to put it. 

Carl Berry  17:00  
If a person doesn’t have that calling. This isn’t the job for them. If you do have that calling, I hope you choose CRI as the place that will support you and enable you to achieve that. That actualization.

Host  17:16  
How long has CRI been around in this area?

Carl Berry  17:18  
Well, we are headquartered here in Erie, Pennsylvania. And we started in 1990 as its own independent organization previous to that we were part of Erie Independence House. So technically we’ve been around for over 40 years. We’re not a brand new pop up organization that somebody thought this would be a good, good new job to go into. We’re not owned by a an investment bank. We were not started just to be able to be sold to an investment bank. I mean… 

Host  17:51  
You’re not headquartered somewhere else.  

Carl Berry  17:53  
Yeah, we’re right here in Erie, Pennsylvania, with offices throughout our service area so that you will see people face to face. Heck, Friday night, it was 10 o’clock at night underneath a hospital bed at a client’s home because the hospital bed motor broke and my Direct Care Worker needed that support. So I jumped in my car and drove over there and I’m crawling underneath the bed. Why? Because my Direct Care Worker needed that support. My client did too. 

Host  18:24  
Yeah, speaking of hiring, let’s talk about I know you’ve got a hiring event going on. To, you know, get to make sure that people understand that they, they’re going to be valued when they worked for CRI. I mean, it’s important work. And certainly you as an organization acknowledge that.

Carl Berry  18:42  
Certainly, well, we do have a hiring event going on right now. It’s actually a promotion, if you will. We’re constantly looking for the right people. But we’re kind of sweetening the pot, if you want to call it that. We have a sign-on, well, I call it a stay-on incentive, wherein a Direct Support Professional or direct care professional signs on with CRI stays with us through our 90-day onboarding experience. And we call it onboarding experience for a reason there’s everything from in classroom training to in the field support with a trainer and mentor, plus 20 touchpoints, with your supervisor and your trainer and your scheduler throughout those first 90 days to enable you to stay in this job and continue as a caregiver for our clients. If you succeed in that 90 days, you will receive $500 cash, I believe in 90 days. My job is to convince individuals that we are the right place for them. And we are the best choice for well to be their employer. I think we can do it in 90 days.

Host  19:52  
Yeah. And it’s interesting too. And it should be pointed out that even though as we’ve said this job really requires a  certain kind of person. It’s not as if you have to walk on the job and, you know, figure out what you’re doing on your own the truth, you know, I’m sure as not only learning, you know, technically what you have to do, and what’s going to fill your day also learning, learning patience, and learning how to best communicate with the folks you’re dealing with. That’s all part of the training. So you’re not going to walk in needing all of your skills intact on day one.

Carl Berry  20:29  
Absolutely. I’m very proud of our, like I said, the onboarding experience, wherein starts out with classroom training, where you learn about CRI and the clients that we serve. And then you start developing more skills, more hands on training, yes, there are videos to get across some topics. But there’s some training topics that you absolutely positively have to do hands, on how to properly transfer somebody into a wheelchair, how to properly reposition somebody in a bed, how to give a bed bath, how to help someone in and out of a shower safely, safely for you and safely for the client. Those you have to do hands on. And we have training laboratories, in each of our offices where you’ll get that hands on skill. But where it really, the rubber really hits the road is when you are working with a new client. Some employers will just say: “Congratulations, you’re finished your day of orientation, here’s the address, go introduce yourself to Mrs. Brown”. We don’t do that. What we do is we have our trainers, or our supervisors, or at the very least a long term experienced, trusted, direct care professional to work with you to introduce you to Mrs. Brown, to be with you on that first day. And second day. And third day, maybe fifth day, sixth day, usually by that time people are caught on but to help you transition into your new role. And to well, frankly, introduce the client to you.

Host  22:08  
Exactly. And so it’s gonna say that really speaks to how you are, you know, want to treat your employees and make sure that they’re ready, but also to make sure the client is ready. 

Carl Berry  22:18  

Host  22:19  
The client, you know, it can be an older person that can be in a vulnerable position. You know, it, you need to get to know this person, because they’re going to be a big part of your life.

Carl Berry  22:29  
It’s important that our employees know our clients, likes, dislikes, preferences could be as simple as “don’t turn off that light switch because it actually turns off the power to the TV. And I can’t get over to that switch because of my physical disability”. Could be something as simple as that. Now imagine if you’re a person with a disability and you’ve said that over and over and over and over again to a parade of new Direct Care Workers coming in out of your home because the client, the company can’t retain their people, right? Well, our job is to enable our employees to know things like Mrs. Brown likes to have her breakfast at eight o’clock in the morning. She likes to have her eggs poached or sunny side up. She likes her toast dark but not burnt and don’t turn off that light switch because she can’t turn off or turn on the TV. She loves your prices. Right. 

Host  23:28  
Right. That’s important stuff. It’s important stuff for sure.

Carl Berry  23:31  
Some folks would think it’s not. But we’re talking about quality of life in somebody’s home. So It’s our job to support.

Host  23:40 
Most definitely, Carl, if people want to know more they want to find out about CRI. I mentioned a couple outlets, but how can they do so? 

Carl Berry  23:49  
Well a couple different ways: you had mentioned our website, That’s c r i n e t dot O R G. Whoever came up with I don’t know that was before my time. You could also contact us at 814-838-7222 and we will put you in touch with our Center for Independent Living Information and Referral Specialist. Or you can even catch us on social media where we have a number of posts all about the different services. We provide Community Resources for Independence on Facebook, for example.

Host  24:25  
All right, thank you so much, Carl Berry I appreciate it. 

Carl Berry  24:28
Thank you, sir. 

Host  24:28  
And thank you for listening.